Of course, joining the Navy is not for everyone but for Hillary, who had strong ties with the military through her family, it was a no-brainer. “Three out of my four grandparents were in the military, two in the Air Force and one in the Navy. My parents both grew up as military brats and have always thought highly of the military and the benefits it has still to this day provided for our family.” Hillary completed her undergraduate education at the University of Florida, which is where she first found out about the HPSP scholarship program. Her first step in learning more about the program was talking to a recruiter. She explained, “there was a very active dental/medical Navy recruiter in Gainesville, who I listened to a few times before I took serious thought to the idea.”
With graduation looming near for the fourth years, I asked Hillary what she is most excited for after graduation. The day after graduation, Hillary will fly to Rhode Island for Officer Development School (ODS). She will be there for 5 weeks, at the end of which will be a graduation ceremony. “I think what I am most looking forward to in the short-term is this ceremony,” Hillary says. “I am really proud to be in this program and I think that on this day when I graduate as an official officer in the Navy, I am going to feel like I have put my life towards something bigger than I ever imagined.” Hillary has already been accepted into an AEGD residency program at Naval Station Norfolk next year which just happens to be the world’s largest naval base. It is safe to say that the Navy is giving Hillary plenty to be excited for when graduation comes.
Along with the excitement of graduating and joining the Navy, Hillary made sure to point out there are still things she is nervous about. “ODS has definitely made me anxious” she says. “As soon as they gave me that start date, I went to my planner and wrote a countdown of the days I have left until then. I think it will be physically and mentally demanding and I am sure I will miss my friends and family. Still, I know I can get through anything I put my mind to.” No matter what, being in the military is always risky and this fact alone may discourage many students from joining the program. Hillary does not let this keep her down though because while political turmoil definitely makes her nervous, she takes it in stride saying, “should the U.S. increase deployments for any reason, I feel like this would be the time when my duty to our nation would be needed most and I will proudly serve.”
Hillary also has great advice for anyone who is interested in joining a branch of the military. “Do your research, meet with a recruiter (who you can trust!), talk with someone who has been there and decide if this is for you. Like I said, this may not sound attractive to everyone. For me, I would rather serve for 4 years, treating a population who I believe deserves the best care in the world, all while getting expanded training and getting paid, than have the financial stress of loans, finding a job, etc. after school. If this is how you think, go for it!!” She also pointed out that we have many experienced veterans right here in our school to get advice from, including Dr. Mueninghoff, Dr. Ford, Dr. Stevens, and Dr. Bradford. And being the superstar that she is, she is always willing to answer any questions anyone may have. We are proud to have Hillary as a member of ASDA and a student at our school and will miss her when she graduates in May.
Author: Kelsey Gwin, Class of 2021